“I don’t need to pattern my life after any man of God, or older Christian brother or sister. I just need to stay with God’s word. It is the best teacher. In fact, it is the only teacher. After all, Christianity is personal.” said a brother to me years back, as we discussed Christian discipleship and accountability. His statement may appear true to the undiscerning, but it is only half truth.
Many believers have remained stunted in their spiritual growth, and some have fallen out of the faith because they failed to understand and accept the pivotal role that accountability plays in Christianity.
Christian accountability entails been answerable to other believers. It means been obligated to report, explain or justify one’s actions or words to other believers that one has deliberately hand-picked. It is a state that allows one’s life to be poke nosed into. I know this doesn’t go down well with many, but it is scriptural.
First Peter five verse five says in the King James version, “. . . you younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another. . .” I like the way The Message translation renders this same scripture. It reads thus, “. . . you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other. . .” That’s Christian accountability, being down to earth with one another.
From my short Christian sojourn and from my interaction with other believers, I’ve found out that there can exist at least three types of Christian accountability relationships. The first is that that exists between you and another believer that you perceive as ahead of you in the faith. The second is the accountabilty that exists between you and a believer in the same spiritual growth level as yours. And the third is that accountability relationship that exists between you and a younger believer that has committed himself or herself to you.
Every believer must place himself or herself under someone older in the faith. This should be a deliberate step. The essence is to seek guidance. Apostle Paul admonished the church in Corinth in First Corinthians eleven one to be followers of him, even as he followed Christ. In the same vein, he admonished the Philippian church in Philippians three seventeen to follow his example; and that just as they had him as a model, they should keep their eyes on those who lived as he did.
You should have Christian brethren in your growth sphere that you’re accountable to. Prayer partners that you can unburden before the Lord with. Christian friends that can be frank with you about your shortcomings that others may be reluctant to talk to you about. Brethren that you can ‘argue’ God’s word with, all with the intent of edifying one another. I believe Proverbs twenty-seven verse seventeen was inferring this level of accountability when it says that iron sharpens iron, so shall a man sharpen the countenance of his friend.
Now some leaders or older believers don’t think it necessary to be accountable to those under them. Then how else can you be a better example? Is it not by being completely open to your followers? Your life being bare for them to critic and learn from? Believers that have committed themselves to you do not only learn from your spiritual strides and discipline, but also from your weaknesses and shortcomings. When they know how you fell and stood, when you empathise by laying your life bare before them, then they can face their challenges and successfully overcome them. The superman portrait would not work. It would only put you in a class of your own.
Someone may ask, “How then do I know who to subject myself to? Can it be any believer?” Well, in a general sense, we are subject to every believer through the community of the church. But in deliberate detailed accountabilty, you cannot be subject to just any Christian. You need to seek for a believer or believers that are sound in the faith, have a good understanding of scriptures and a functional walk with God. It is good to choose someone that is in the same line of your calling. This will help prepare, and not derail you from your specific purpose.
May I quickly sound a caution. The apostle Paul asked believers to follow him as he followed Christ. Christ is the goal and ultimate model. You should follow other believers as long as they take similar steps with Christ, and cease the very moment they derail.
Someone may be saying, “Bro, I’ve looked around. There are no matured Christians for me to commit myself to. All the believers around me have issues.” I’d say too that you have issues; issues that can only be dealt with via Christian accountability. If you don’t know who to start with in this accountability business, I’d say start with the pastor of your local church. That is one of his primary responsibilities. If the pastor of your local church is not someone you can follow his example, please look for another church.
And who says you must have only one accountability relationship? Who says you must only seek counsel and listen to one person? For in the multitude of counsellors there is safety, and purposes are established (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22)
If you err and nobody can edge you to the right path; if you miss church and nobody calls to check on you; if you’re struggling with an addiction and there’s no believer you can confide in; if you’re confused about a critical life decision and you don’t seem to have any older believer you can talk to; if you suddenly take up a new strange doctrine and there’s no older believer that the brethren can run to, to speak sense into you; then you’re sitting on a keg of gunpowder. And God helps you when it explodes.
Christian accountability is a must. For it forms an essential pillar of the Christian community.